His Fifty-Fourth Birthday Party, 2017, Concluded
But on my birthday I forewent the afternoon milkshake, bearing in mind as I did the promised pies of evening. I saw these Popsicles that looked very intriguing in a little freezer by the door. Uh… an Arnold Palmer flavored Popsicle! Which I thought was a great idea for a Popsicle. I was like, “Hats off to the Popsicle maker!” I’m using the word “Popsicle,” when, of course, that’s a trademark… name. A brand. And these were not Popsicle brand frozen treats. They were… you know… they had a name like Popsicle. I think it was something like “Popsy,” you know. As close as they could get without violating the Popsicle copyright.
But an Arnold Palmer flavored Popsicle sounded like, uhhhhhh, you know, wow! Why has no one thought of this before?
[Sniff. Throat noise.]
What was my point? I didn’t have one.
Oh! Yes I did. I was a ghost. Yeah, you don’t wanna be a ghost! On your birthday. She literally didn’t see me standing there with my Arnold Palmer Popsicle, which I never got to taste because I… I even said, “Can I… hello? Can…?” And she just completely ignored me!
So I went and I… angrily [stifled laugh], you know, dropped my Popsicle back in the freezer with a… you know… a tiny clatter that could hardly express the… mortifying existential crisis… [laughter; coughing] that this cashier had precipitated. So…
I forgot my coffee. It’s almost cold. I better drink it fast.
But as you get older you don’t want to be a transparent specter on your birthday.
I walked out of the… [short laugh] candy store. I walked up the street and I saw Serge and Carlotta emerging from a restaurant, having had lunch. They were… Serge was going back to his office on the square. So we, uh, Carlotta and I went… I got an actual Arnold Palmer! I sat at a diner and had a… an Arnold Palmer with Carlotta. And th—we discussed show business. She could care less about writing… uh, for TV. So… in fact, she’d rather not do it. So I think that’s a very powerful thing. They’re not used to being told no, and it startles them and makes them think.
It was a nice birthday. Strangers kept telling me happy birthday on the street. I don’t know… I don’t think I had tweeted any pie pictures yet but Carlotta had sent out a… “Everyone, if you see him tell him happy birthday.” And along with that she tweeted a picture of us from a while back, where…
Y—you know, my belly is popping out of my sh—literally popping out of my shirt in the photo Carlotta tweeted. You can see my belly. And… I just thought, who cares? A younger man… just a few years ago I think she posted that same picture and I said, “Please take that down. My belly is popping out of my shirt.”
Serge was funny. He—because Carlotta was coming to town, Serge had tracked down this obscure Burt Reynolds movie. We had all been interested in the… actress Barbara Loden. Or I should say “actor.” Actress… isn’t that an outdated word? Even though they use it at the Academy Awards.
[Sigh. Deep breath. Sigh.]
But Johnny Griggs and I had seen Barbara Loden in, in, uh, Splendor in the Grass, and were just, uh, uh, really, uhhh, mesmerized by her performance, and…
[Remainder of a cup of cold coffee being roughly splashed into the kitchen sink.]
Johnny and I intended to have a… Elia Kazan… you know, a, a comprehensive screening of every one of his… and we only ever watched Splendor in the Grass and that was the end of it. I don’t remember—I don’t know how that got off track.
Serge had tracked down this very obscure Burt Reynolds movie with Barbara Loden in it.
Uh… which had been given the salacious retitling Iron Cowboy. Or maybe that was trying to—wait a minute. I don’t even know when it came out. It had to be pre-Urban Cowboy.
I don’t know when the retitling occurred. The retitling could have occurred—[laughter]. Who cares? You could look this up! I d—I, I’m just wildly speculating.
So he wanted to watch it while Carlotta was in town. But her visit was much shorter than she had originally planned.
So… so in any case, we didn’t have time to go to Serge’s back porch and watch [laughter] Iron Cowboy [throat clearing] while Carlotta was here. So I said to Serge, “Why don’t you bring it over? And after everyone has pie, maybe we can… after everyone has pie, maybe we can, uh… and, uh, and, uh, people begin to leave, trickle out, you guys lag behind and we’ll—maybe we’ll watch some… [sigh] Iron Cowboy.” [Laughter.]
So I mean, people had barely—nobody had even had pie yet and Serge [short laugh] flops down on the loveseat and starts saying… [laughter] “Put on Burt!”
So I say, “Hey, guys, uh, Serge has this Burt Reynolds movie…”
And that was like a cue. That was like I had said, “People, we’ve discovered anthrax.” [Laughter.] Everybody kinda just left all of a sudden.
And so we put this movie on, and… it was very fuzzy and blurry. It was a terrible… it’s hard to track down, so the copy was dubious. And it was entirely…
Why is this guy standing right outside the… oh, I see. He’s got a weed whacker. And those weeds do need whackin’. I’m not one to… I don’t care that much, but yesterday when we got home from—we went up to Memphis, Anastasia and I. And, uh… when we pulled up I said, “Wow. Wow, look at these weeds.”
Wow, that was a good story, wasn’t it?
Anyway, so this movie, this Burt Reynolds movie was all blurry and—very blurry, and, d-uh, it was… sundrenched, a kind of dazzling blurriness, and just people walking endlessly through parking lots to no purpose… [Laughter.] And Anastasia put it so well. She said it was like we’re seeing somebody else’s dream. Specifically, she said, “It’s like we were in Serge’s head.”
This way, please, to the next installment.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.
Popula is 100% ad-free, reader-supported journalism accountable only to you. Every dollar of your subscription goes straight to our work. Thank you for supporting Popula.